CDC Warns Americans to Prepare for Coronavirus Spread in U.S.
WASHINGTON, DC—February 27, 2020—This week the CDC issued a sobering message to Americans: Start preparing now for a coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. In recent days, cases have spiked in locations outside China, and this points to the likelihood that eventually coronavirus will spread more widely in the U.S. as well, according to NPR.
During a briefing on Tuesday, Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the CDC said, “It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but more really a question of when it will happen—and how many people in this country will have severe illness.”
The U.S. government responded to the early days of the outbreak with travel restrictions to and from China and a mandatory quarantine for certain travelers. These measures, along with isolating patients who tested positive, have likely slowed the arrival of the virus in the U.S., according to NPR. However, Dr. Messonneir warns that more disruptive steps will likely be needed if the virus begins to spread, including canceling public events and closing schools and workplaces.
According to The New York Times current virus tracking, more than 82,400 cases of COVID-19 have been reported worldwide. Japan reports more than 800 cases, Iran more than 200, and Italy more than 600. It’s the outbreaks in Iran and Italy that have CDC officials most concerned, as concentrations of the virus outside Asia raise the level of expectation that global coronavirus spread is likely, according to NBC News.
“When you start to see sustained transmission in other countries throughout the world, it’s inevitable that it will come to the United States,” explained Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, according to NBC News.
At this point, risk to Americans at home remains low, reports NBC, as the 60 U.S. cases are limited almost entirely to people who traveled in Asia or had close contact with someone who did. However, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar warned in a briefing that the situation may change quickly and said that the community spread of the virus outside Asia is “deeply concerning.”
Also concerning is a report from the CDC on Wednesday of a coronavirus case in California where the patient has no known exposure to the virus—no travel to any locations or contact with any people known to have coronavirus. CNN reports that this is the first possible case of community spread in the United States, meaning the virus is possibly present in the community and the origin of exposure is unknown, making the virus much more difficult to contain.
Prepare for Coronavirus
NBC News reports that Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University, is encouraging Americans to think about our “pandemic preparedness plans.” He said, “The core concept is social distancing.” Social distancing means limiting your exposure to social settings and public spaces where the virus is likely to spread, so this includes avoiding public events, gatherings, and trips to the grocery store.
Dr. Schaffner suggests that business leaders consider which employees could work from home and families consider how they would handle one or two weeks at home without leaving the house, and that everyone begin taking steps to prepare. This includes stocking up on non-perishable food and medication, planning for childcare in the event of school closings, and preparing to work from home if necessary, according to NPR’s preparation guide. Edith Bracho-Sanchez, a pediatrician with Columbia University Medical Center, points out that good hand hygiene is one of the best forms of protection, so she encourages everyone to make frequent, thorough handwashing a habit, starting today.
In China, the rate of new COVID-19 cases has been declining which indicates that efforts to control coronavirus spread are working, according to NBC, but other countries will need to act quickly and be prepared to enact similarly aggressive measures as new cases of the virus are discovered. In the U.S. the Trump administration has requested $2.5 billion in funds to prepare for coronavirus response. NBC reports this money would be used to expand the public health system’s ability to identify and test possible cases, as well as to develop a coronavirus vaccine.
Keep checking back for all of Cleanfax’s news and updates on the coronavirus outbreak, and be sure to visit the ISSA resource page, www.issa.com/coronavirus, where you can access all of GBAC’s coronavirus tip sheets and other current information about COVID-19.